👋 Away Message: Hi there! Matt is currently out on parental leave. He'll return August 30th-ish. More details can be found here. In the meantime, Joe (the voice of the newscast/podcast) will be publishing an abridged version of WTF Just Happened Today? every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect 5-7 news items covering a slightly wider range of political news in about two sentences each. We'll return to our regularly scheduled WTFJHT programming when Matt returns in late August.
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1/ Congress plans to try and pass a two-day government funding extension in order to avoid a government shutdown after midnight as lawmakers struggle to finalize a $900 billion coronavirus relief package. The relief proposal is expected to include $600 direct payments for American families and children – half the stimulus checks issued last spring – $325 billion for small businesses, and $300 in enhanced weekly unemployment benefits, along with billions of dollars for small businesses, vaccine distribution, and schools. White House aides intervened and talked Trump out of calling for “at least” $1,200 in stimulus payments per person. Instead, Trump said that “stimulus talks [are] looking very good.” Meanwhile, Democrats accused Republicans of trying to “sabotage” Biden’s ability to lead an economic recovery after he takes office by cutting off the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending powers created by the CARES Act to protect the economy. [Editor’s note: FYI this entire blurb could be old news by the time you read this.] (CNBC / NBC News / CNN / Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~75,439,000; deaths: ~1,671,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~17,376,000; deaths: ~313,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
2/ Biden’s team of medical advisers warned that getting the coronavirus vaccine to every American could take six months or longer. One physician close to the transition speculated that it might not be until late summer or early fall before the vaccine begins to be widely available to the general public. Trump administration officials, however, have promised that the general public could start getting the vaccine in late February. The U.S., meanwhile, has ordered enough doses of the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine to inoculate 150 million people. (NBC News)
3/ The suspected Russian hacking campaign hit more than 40 organizations in the U.S., Belgium, Canada, Israel, Mexico, Spain, the U.A.E., and the United Kingdom. In the U.S., hackers with ties to the Russian government penetrated several federal agencies, including departments of Homeland Security, Treasury, Commerce and State, as well as the nuclear weapons agency, and at least three states. The hacks began at least as early as March, but were discovered last week. Biden warned that his administration would impose “substantial costs” on those responsible, adding “We need to disrupt and deter our adversaries from undertaking significant cyber attacks in the first place.” Trump, meanwhile, has not publicly acknowledged the hack, which the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency called a “grave risk to the federal government.” (NBC News / Bloomberg / New York Times / CNN / Washington Post / Reuters / CNBC / The Intercept)
4/ Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller ordered a Pentagon-wide halt to briefing the Biden transition team, calling it “a holiday pause.” While Miller said the halt in cooperation “mutually agreed upon,” a Biden spokesman said “there was no mutually agreed upon holiday break” and that the move reflected “isolated resistance” by political appointees. (Axios / Bloomberg / New York Times / Business Insider)
5/ Biden will nominate Rep. Deb Haaland to lead the Department of the Interior and Michael Regan to lead the EPA. If confirmed, Haaland would become the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary and Regan would be the first Black man to head the EPA. (NPR / NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
6/ The Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s plans to exclude undocumented immigrants from the final census count. The unsigned opinion said it would be “premature” to rule on the case, because it is “riddled with contingencies and speculation” and that the Trump administration doesn’t know how many undocumented immigrants there are or where they live. It’s not clear, however, if Trump will receive final numbers from the Census Bureau before he leaves office next month. The census is used to determine how many members of Congress each state gets in the House of Representatives. (NPR / NBC News / New York Times / Axios / CNBC)
7/ The Trump campaign spent more than $700 million since 2019 through a shell company that Jared Kushner helped create. American Made Media Consultants helped Trump’s campaign dodge federally mandated disclosures while also paying some of Trump’s top advisors and family members. Lara Trump, Pence’s nephew John Pence, and Trump campaign Chief Financial Officer Sean Dollman all served on the shell company’s board. When Trump leaves the White House as a private citizen next month, he’ll have more than $60 million in his new Save America PAC – about as much money as he spent to win the presidential nomination in 2016. (Business Insider / New York Times / New York Times)
8/ Trump reportedly plans to issue several pardons for friends and allies today. While it’s unclear who will be included, Trump has considered a pardon for his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, as well as preemptive pardons for family members. (Axios)
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